National Center for Access to Justice

NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman Creates Public Service Requirement as Condition for Admission to the Bar

Cutting through decades of debate about the relative merits of voluntary v. mandatory public service for law students, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the Unified New York Court System opted for mandatory, announcing today (May 1, 2012) that, commencing in 2013, admission to the New York State bar will be contingent on an applicant’s completion of 50 hours of law related volunteer service.   

The Chief Judge explained, “If pro bono is a core value of our profession, and it is – and if we aspire for all practicing attorneys to devote a meaningful portion of their time to public service, and they should – these ideals ought to be instilled from the start, when one first aspires to be a member of the profession.”

Students and school officials, legal services providers and public defenders, judges and court staff, litigants proceeding in court without lawyers – all are this week absorbing the Chief Judge’s news, and considering how it will play out on the ground in the years ahead. 

The National Center for Access to Justice is engaged in a national project to help illuminate and optimize the role of law schools in responding to the Justice Gap.  Here are some of the activities in which we are engaged:

  • David Udell, Executive Director of the Center, will be delivering the keynote speech at the ABA’s Pre-Conference for Law School Pro Bono at 1pm on May 16, 2012.  The subject of the speech will be Law School Pro Bono and Access to Justice.
  • David will also be hosting a session titled Law School Pro Bono Meets Access to Justice at the ABA’s Pre-Conference for Law School Pro Bono in Jacksonville, Florida from 1:45 to 3:15pm on May 16, 2012
  • David will be co-hosting a session on Law School Pro Bono Meets Access to Justice at Equal Justice Works’ 2012 Conference and Career Fair in Arlington, Virginia, from 10:15 to 11:30am on October 26, 2012.
  • The National Center for Access to Justice joined forces with the United States Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative, and with the 9/11 Victims Compensation fund (and other organizations) to create  a law school pro bono project at Cardozo Law School (and at other law schools in the metropolitan New York area) that is enlisting law student volunteers to help certain victims of the 9/11 tragedy file their on-line applications for awards from the Fund.
  • The Center is also researching and writing a national report on law school pro bono and how it can be optimized to respond to the justice gap.  Among other things, the report is focusing on models for pro bono that are especially effective, and on how they can be replicated in schools across the country.

 (originally posted May 1, 2012 by David Udell)